Monday, December 13, 2004

Sappho's "Poetic Universe"

Sappho repeatedly mentions certain locations or names in her poetry. Some of these recurrent locations/names include Aphrodite, Krete, Kypris, Zeus, Hera, Abanthis, Lesbos, etc… The ancient Greek poet frequently alludes to the gods/goddesses/historical figures of Greek mythology—Zeus, Helen of Troy, and especially Aphrodite. Sappho was infatuated with the ancient Greek godess, who resided over fertility, wine, happiness and love. Sappho discusses themes of love in many of her ancient poems, and also discusses feminine/womanly qualities. Sometimes, she will discuss children or youthfulness. Sappho crafts her poetic universe out of several of these elements: a description of the gods, her home in ancient Greece, her feelings of affection for both men and women, the joys of being young, the difficulties of aging, etc… Her poems are simple, largely due to the fact that many of the manuscripts of her poems are illegible to paleographers, which thereby cuts out substantial portions of her work. Many of her poems are one single word: “honeyvoiced,” “holder,” “crossable,” etc... But even her complete poems are simple in nature. Much of this simplicity may come from the fact that her poetry is often fragmented and forms little pieces of poetry within the structure of one larger poem—each sentence/stanza is almost a miniature poem of its own. That is the beauty of Sappho—detail and incredible expression of what it is to be a human being in the Ancient Greek world; but this detail and incredible expression comes in subtle forms and in bite-size explanations.

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